In Bingo Hell, co-writer and director Gigi Saul Guerrero creates a world of horror that harkens to the campiness of early ’80s schlock with a tale that feels as old as time itself. But it’s also a labor of love and reverence for the people in our lives that came before but are often never the protagonist of our stories — our elders.
“Blumhouse at the time was asking me after Culture Shock, ‘So what do you got next? What other weird ideas you got?’” Guerrero recalls. “My wonderful longtime friend and co-writer Shane McKenzie and I, we were catching up on the phone. And he said, ‘Gigi, you’re not gonna believe where I was last night. I was at the bingo hall with my mother-in-law and it was weird as shit.’ He was telling me how crazy it was to witness how competitive all these elderly folks were. They had lucky charms, they were yelling at each other and hitting the table when they lost. It was terrifying. I said to him, ‘Listen, my abuela loves Bingo.’”
The familial bond this writing team has for the people close to them, and their love for this very underrated game, crafted the foundation of Bingo Hell’s story and central idea.
“What would happen if we took it away from them,” asked Guerrero. “Thanks to his mother-in-law and my grandma, we embody them so much through the characters that we just got inspired to bring something so wacky and weird but at the same time have the unique charm seniors bring.”
This embodiment of Guerrero’s grandmother — and McKenzie’s mother-in-law — show throughout the film itself especially in Lupita, Bingo Hell’s central protagonist. With her mannerisms, brimming confidence, and asides, I felt as if I was watching elders I knew personally on screen. Guerrero remarked how she and actress Adriana Barraza, worked together to bring Lupita to life so vividly from inspiration of her very own abuela.
“With working with Adriana, I would show pictures of my grandma,” said Guerrero. “I would show her home videos and she really wanted to embody somebody we know. So, definitely the goal was to have Lupita be that abuela that we know, of either through a tia or a friend. We wanted genre fans coming out of this movie like, man, I miss my grandma.”
That kind of pull of familial connection serves as an anchor to the audience to empathize and relate to Lupita, the rest of the cast, and the film’s central plot as well. Guerrero also creates and maintains the feeling of suspense throughout the film that pays off in really fun ways that is influenced through her main goal of creating an experience that helps people forget their troubles in the real world.
“I feel that genre films allow you to escape the real horrors of the world. It allows you to just be able to world build and create characters in different horrific situations that you can be entertained with,” said Guerrero. “What we see in the news is already so heartbreaking, and I don’t want people to suffer another 90 minutes through the year. So we can help people just escape the reality for a bit. As artists, we should definitely take advantage of life experience. I think that’s one of the best ways to share a story. Sure, Maybe I’ve never been at a bingo hall with some wild characters in there. But we can understand through a movie like this, what community and friendship means. That’s a universal topic.”
But outside of the more macro and personal details for people to pick up on in this campy film, Guerrero really just wants people to have this main take away from the film.
“We want people to be able to watch a genre film with that elderly loved one that they have still in their lives or to be able to miss them and see them as the heroes. We want to be break that stereotype of the weak and old with this movie. It’s okay to laugh and have fun and just bring back the nostalgia of old school horror movies.”
Bingo Hell is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.